Friday, February 08, 2013

Society Has Gotten Ruder. Jerks.

We're getting ruder and more inconsiderate as a society. We're not only less formal — we used to call each other Mister, Missus, and Miss — but people are forgetting even simple manners we were all supposed to learn when we were kids.

When I was a kid, manners were easy. You opened the door for other people. You said "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome. You gave up your bus seat to seniors. And children sat still and behaved in restaurants.

Over the last few years, I've witnessed some abhorrent behavior from people who are close enough to my age that they should know better. They won't open the door for anyone. They rarely say "please," while "you're welcome" has become "no prob!" Seniors are on their own on the bus or anywhere else. And children are allowed to run amok and shriek loudly in restaurants.

What has happened that we no longer care about basic civilities? Since when did it become too burdensome to hold a door open? When did it become acceptable to race ahead of someone, open the door slightly, and slip through, leaving the other person to fend for themselves?

This is behavior normally only seen while driving, especially in the more affluent parts of my city, where rudeness reigns.

Since when did parents decide that children should publicly experience their emotions to the fullest, and will let the screaming brats "cry it out," as the parents go "shh shh shh" in the caterwauling child's ear, whether in a restaurant, movie, or church?

These last few days, I've been at Disney World, the most magical place on Earth. The place where peoples from all nations come together in a massive gathering of peace, harmony, and $12 hamburgers. And I have witnessed some of the most impolite, unkind, and rude behavior.

I have seen people take flash photography in a completely darkened room, where a couple hundred people had gathered. Even though the Disney cast member has asked us to please not take flash photos, someone decides those rules don't apply to her, and snaps her flash, blinding everyone else nearby.

(On one ride, someone snapped a picture directly across from me, "zombie eyes flash" and all. When the first flash went off, I photobombed their shot, wagging a stern finger of warning in their direction. That's one for the album.)

Even the basic rules of "let shorter people in front" have fallen by the wayside. While watching a fireworks display one night, two tall men made sure they had prime spots at a fence railing, standing in front of a little old lady in a wheelchair, her grandson, and several other children so they could have the best view.

Even 20 years ago, these men would have stepped aside to let the shorter people have the better view. It's not like they didn't know any better. These were men in their 60s. Men, one would hope, who were of the age to be taught to be respectful.

They grew up in the days when you held the door open for women, said "yes sir" and "yes ma'am," and children did not go to restaurants. And yet, one 6-foot guy stood at a fence railing and saved a spot for his 6'5" friend, making sure they were the only ones who could enjoy the view.

We already over-exercise our right to feel indignant at the slightest offense. People complain about the tiniest things and expect royal treatment as a groveling apology. They're outraged — OUTRAGED! — at a song lyric, a minor difference of political or theological opinion, or that someone else prefers meat to soy.

They'll rant and rave, bully the offender on Facebook, and and compare them to Hitler, all in the same breath.

Because, apparently there are no more injustices in the world to rail against, so they have to find a place to channel their God-given sense of righteous indignation about the stupidest things.

(And yes, I recognize the irony about writing an entire humor column to rant about other people's sense of indignation.)

But these same people will turn around and commit ruder, larger offenses against others, simply because they don't want to be a little inconvenienced, or because Yoga Teacher Sven said little Ashlynn and Reese need to purge their sadness energies.

Apparently, it's only offensive and rude when someone else does it to them. But they're free to inflict their own brand of rudeness on others in the name of individuality and personal freedom, and they'll get in your face if you don't let them exercise it.

What can we do about it all? We can complain. We can loudly denounce people in public for their boorish behavior. But we'll become one of those righteously indignant jerks everyone else roll their eyes at.

Just don't take flash photography in a darkened room, because you never know who might be photobombing your picture. And it may not be their pointer finger they're waving at you.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, and for the Kindle or Nook.

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6 comments:

  1. Mr. Deckers,

    I agree with you regarding this symptom of our failing society. This symptom has been visible for a long time and is only getting worse as the value of a human life diminishes.

    Please consider this quote of Robert A. Heinlein who wrote: "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life".

    We, as a societal whole, do not teach our young responsibility for one's actions. Instead, we have ingrained into them, through a very liberal educational system, artificial heroes and a wide variety of highly publicized scandals that no one is truly accountable for themselves. There is always a scape goat and the higher you get in society, the easier it is to find a scape goat.

    The value of human life to a society is inversely proportional to the amount of violence in the society. That violence is measurable by acts of rudeness that range from inconsiderately not holding a door for a fellow human being to rape and murder that goes unchecked or justice delayed.

    It takes great strength and personal power to be kind, polite and openly display good manners, even to those one may have reason to dislike. Poor manners and disrespectful, unhelpful actions and attitudes are the self-claiming advertisements of the weak, cowardly and fearful.

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    1. Robert Heinlein may be right, but many people are already armed, and we're still less mannered than we were. And as the violence in society grows, I've seen many cases in the news about assaults and fights that took place over insults and rudeness. So I don't think arming ourselves is the answer.

      Rather, I think it's more right to say that we're not teaching children about consequences. That's something my wife and I are always preaching and reinforcing to our own kids.

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  2. Rude - like "No BS Social Media." To many of us from another era those vulgar terms are rude/offensive. Kudos for insight and a great article however! We are two generations into this mess, so I doubt a generation not knowing its manners can teach such to the next! The only hope is an inward change in each life, and an example lived by parents such as you've expressed.

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    1. Yes, I get it about the No BS Social Media. Touché. :-)

      Delete
  3. Am totally with you Mr Deckers. our job as parents, in my own personal opinion, is not to mould our kids into mini versions of ourselves or to cajole them into becoming some kind of super- achievers or to make up for where we feel we missed out.
    Our job as parents is to help socialize our kids.
    It drives me nuts when people excuse their kids behavior with a throwaway "oh you know what boys are like." Erm... actually no I don't.
    These are the very same parents who in the next sentence talk about what a special little individual their kid is - well wait a moment, wasn't he just a generic "boy" a minute ago?
    I totally get that two and three year olds have tantrums and most of the time you just have to ride it out, but when it's happening at 6 years + someone has to get a grip.
    To not educate your kids as to how to socialise and be at ease in company is as irresponsible as not educating your kid on what healthy eating is, and it will cause them damage in later life.
    Grr
    I'm going to stop complaining.
    One last thing. can we please introduce a law that if anyone drives by school gates in an SUV at pick up or drop off time, whilst texting or holding their cellphone against their ear, can it be perfectly legal to stop them just to punch them in the face?
    That is all
    Peace and love :D

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, Ms. Ferguson. My wife and I are focused on projecting the Golden Rule onto our kids. We teach them to treat people the way we want to be treated ourselves. They've also learned we won't put up with any tantrums.

      We saw A LOT of tantrums at Disney World earlier this month, and were shocked at how poorly-behaved some of these kids are. More than once we told them, "this is why we never let you act that way when you were young."

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